Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Transaction Recap: White Sox, Angels

White Sox: Traded SP Jon Garland to Angels for SS Orlando Cabrera and cash (Rating: 2/10)

Angels: Same trade (5/10)

You don't often see trades where neither team really comes out ahead, but I think that's what we have here. The Angels, once stocked with shortstop prospects, have no one who's really ready to step in and take Cabrera's place, unless they opt for a short-term free agent signing. Acquiring Garland helps their rotation some, but he's not a big upgrade over Joe Saunders or Ervin Santana. Basically, this move only makes sense if the Angels plan to make a big move later in the offseason, either by trading Santana or signing a certain free agent. Though the trade created a hole rather than filling one, the Angels did acquire the better player, so there's something to be said for that.

If the deal made little sense for the Angels, it made Zero Kelvin sense for the Sox. They just spent $4.5 million to re-up a defense-first shortstop who can't hit, so why not bring in an even higher-paid one? Wasn't Garland supposed to be worth a top prospect in trade? Didn't the Sox just win 72 games with an old team, indicating that they should rebuild rather than get even older?

Cabrera had a "career year" in 2007, hitting .301 and winning a Gold Glove. There are only a few problems with this:

- Cabrera didn't walk or hit for any power--as usual--so his OPS was just .742
- This was his best year offensively since 2003
- At 33, he's well past his prime
- His defense has slipped to league-average; the Gold Glove was won on his reputation

Depending on whether you ask ZIPS or Bill James, Cabrera is due for a .701 or .709 OPS next year, well below the .750 league average for shortstops. Toss in no decline in his defense--an optimistic view, if you ask me--and you have a 5-runs-below-average shortstop at a cost of $7.5 million after the cash throw-in.

Remember, the Sox had to trade away a player (who ostensibly had value) to acquire this incredible bargain of a contract. Your grandfather is right: A dollar really doesn't buy what it used to.

What's really pointless about this deal is that it doesn't accomplish what should be the Sox's prime objective: Acquire young, cost-controlled talent. The Sox could have cashed in Jermaine Dye and Mark Buehrle for prospects at the trade deadline, or let them walk and collected compensation picks in the draft. Instead, they signed both to overpriced deals, giving the team a fighting chance at .500 for 2008, along with a less optimistic outlook for 2009 and beyond.

Even though I'm not Kenny Williams' biggest fan, I was willing to give him the benefit of the doubt, since he could probably still collect draft picks when Cabrera leaves as a free agent after 2007. That was before I read this:

"Last year did not sit well with any of us. I'll be damn if we're going to go through that again. We will aggressively pursue a championship," Williams said.

Look out, Cleveland. Williams thinks Orlando Cabrera represents aggressive pursuit of a championship, the kind of player who single-handedly takes a team from 72 wins to 95. As a Chicago native, I'm deathly afraid he thinks the next step is to throw $90 million at Torii Hunter to take them from 73 wins to 75.

By the way, I love how quickly everyone has forgotten PECOTA's 72-90 preseason projection for the Sox--one which nailed their win total exactly. The story linked to in this FJM post is now gone from the Web, and everyone within the Sox organization seems to be treating 2007 as a one-season fluke. That's fine as a PR move--you can't tell your fans you're already giving up on next year--but once that philosophy starts to guide your roster moves, it's time to forget 2005 and hire a new GM.

Quickly.

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